So I have another somewhat unusual question for you. You helped me name my second son Asa who was born in April. I didn't mention this in my naming update to you, but Asa was actually born with an unexpected rare genetic condition that results in a pretty significant facial difference and blindness. He may have other issues that will reveal themselves in the future (e.g., developmental delays), but, currently, he is a healthy and happy baby boy.My question for you and your readers is below. Asa is a somewhat unusual name and one of the reasons we chose it was because it is unique. When Asa was born, my friend and neighbor told me that if she and her husband ever had a boy they had always planned on naming him J0hn Asa. I don't believe in "claiming" names or preventing others from using the name you have chosen for your baby, so I told her I thought that was a beautiful name and I hoped she used it. She is now pregnant with a boy and has again informed me that they plan on naming the child J0hn Asa. However, in passing the other day, she referred to her baby as Asa, which indicated to me that they plan on calling the baby by his middle name. If my Asa had not been born with a facial difference and a disability, I would be totally fine with her using that name. Happy even--I feel like it validates my choice! However, given that we are neighbors and our kids will all go to the same schools and play together, I am worried that other children will distinguish between her Asa and my Asa by calling mine "Blind Asa" or something worse.I recognize that kids are mean and they may call him names regardless, but, for some reason, I am really worried about this particular scenario and not sure how to handle it. Any thoughts? Feel free to tell me I am being oversensitive!
In my experience so far, the standard way to differentiate between two children with the same first name is to use the last name: Alyssa Thomas and Alyssa Young, for example, or Alyssa T. and Alyssa Y. When I think of our household, I realize there is also a second method, which is to call them Swimming Class Alyssa and William's Friend Alyssa. This is where the concern about a name such as "Blind Asa" comes in. However, as I think of other cases where we use descriptor names such as Swimming Class, all of the descriptions are non-derogatory, and based on who the person is to us or what they do, not what they look like. We might have "Middle School Alyssa" and "Alyssa From The Park," but not "Ugly Alyssa" and "Alyssa With The Bad Clothes"---or even "Blonde Alyssa" and "Old Alyssa."
This hasn't been deliberate: we didn't have to say to ourselves or to the children anything like "Hey, we should come up with pleasant and non-physical ways to tell the two Alyssas apart!" It was natural to think of these descriptors. It gave me a startled/shocked feeling to think of anyone of normal disposition using a differentiating name such as Blind Asa---or letting it slip past if they heard someone else (such as a child who might not yet be aware of social issues such as these) say it. Although it's impossible to protect our children from unkindness, this is the variety of unkindness that would not be tolerated in the current cultural climate. I can't picture it just evolving as the standard way any regular person would differentiate between the two boys named Asa. I find I have trouble even typing it, let alone imagining myself or a teacher or a parent saying it.
I think too that it's something you could mention here and there for as long as both boys do share the same circle of peers. I would, for example, put in a word to each of your Asa's teachers, because I'd think they would be very open to hearing such concerns and could then keep an especially sharp ear out for it. (I suspect, though, that they would already be on high alert for such things.) A very stern and pointed "Do you mean Asa B.?" can nip things in the bud---if things bud at all.
It might even be possible to mention the issue to your friend, if the conversation turns in a direction where such a comment feels it would be natural---though it doesn't seem worth it to force it if such a conversational direction never occurs. A brief and casual "I'm a little worried the kids will call them Asa and Blind Asa" might alert her to the issue as well: it's unlikely she'd choose a different name at this point (thought it may be a new thought to her that her own child's differentiating name could end up being "John Asa" instead of the Asa she may prefer), but she too could be alert for any situation where instant correction was needed.
One more reassuring thought is that your Asa and her Asa will likely be in different grades at school, if your district uses the usual September-birthday cut-off. Your Asa, born in April, will start school a year before her Asa. A difference in grade can make a huge difference in peer groups and play circles.